Review by Anthony Lowery
Limited Edition Blu-ray Out Now
Christmas has come early as In Bruges, Martin McDonagh’s directorial debut, gets a limited edition makeover; and it’s a sizzling, sweary delight!
The dark comedy is based on McDonagh’s own visit to Bruges (it’s in Belgium), where he was both charmed by the city and outrageously bored. This is essentially the premise for the two protagonists: the mellowed Ken (Brendan Gleeson) adores the culture and the architecture, while the youthful and impulsive Ray (Colin Farrell) sulks about the place like a petulant kid. As the duo grow increasingly irritated with one another, and with Bruges itself, the reason for their visit becomes grimly apparent.
McDonagh gracefully riffs on Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter. But while Pinter’s play is confined to a single room, McDonagh affords his characters the more expansive but no less abrading canvas of Bruges. The magical setting adopts a life of its own, with cinematography so beautiful (a feat fully realised in this new Blu-ray release) it almost doesn’t belong, jarring against some of the best cursing dialogue ever committed to screen.
The script itself is word perfect, littered with precious gifts that mean all characters are relatable and likeable, even Ralph Fiennes’s Harry, a potty-mouthed crime boss spilling with righteous anger and wounded pride. Fiennes pitches the role perfectly, effortlessly stealing the few scenes in which he plays.
The unpolished quips, inspired insults and politically incorrect gags in fact misrepresent the rather sweet nature of both a simple narrative and the characters. Farrell’s final lines are harmless and tender, showing him for the gentle, terrified man he really is and not the hardened hitman he pretends to be.
While he’s gone on to larger scale films like Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, In Bruges remains the strongest distillation of McDonagh’s flair on film; it’s foul-mouthed, tartly cruel, and often genuinely poignant, with every nuance completely in keeping with the film’s preoccupation with morality and redemption. And now with a glorious rerelease that includes In Bruges’ Oscar-winning companion piece Six Shooter, this layered, timeless gem just got even better.